Breathtaking. That’s the first thought that pops in my mind as I climb out of the car, gazing at Lake Superior. It’s nature at its finest and I suddenly understand why Anne Greenwood Brown chose this landmark for the setting of her debut YA novel, Lies Beneath. Kat slams her door, startling me, and I immediately shoot her a fiery glare. In my best mafia voice I tell her, “Scratch my new Acura ZSX and you’ll be swimming with the fishes!” My last vehicle died a heroes death after our interview with Kendare Blake and I’ve got that “new car protectiveness” mentality going on. She leans on the hood of the car grinning at me and says, “Just so you know, I swam longer and faster than any other person in my P.E. class.” I look out on the water, the sun glistening on the lake, camouflaging its secrets. I glance back at Kat, raise an eyebrow and say, “This ain’t exactly P.E. class.” She stares at me blankly and replies, “First of all, you suddenly say, “Ain’t” now? And secondly, I’m Australian.” As if that explains it. I look at her skeptically, but her expression says, “Do you really want to challenge me on this?” Hmm… probably not. Curse those Australians and their natural affinity to water! I bite back a snarky retort. After being rejected by the Everneath during our interview with Brodi Ashton, I’m attempting this thing called “having a soul.” But every minute is a personal trial with Kennedy. “Well, c’mon Flipper,” I mutter dryly. “Brown is waiting for us.” We make our way over to Brown, who’s relaxing on a dock. She hears us approach and stands to greet us. After formal acquaintances are made, Kat says, “Thank you so much for agreeing to the interview!” “My pleasure!” Brown replies warmly. “Shall we get started?” I ask gesturing for us all to take a seat on the dock. We both take seats on opposite sides of Brown, and Kat motions for me to hand over the notes. Geez, bossy. I comply and she asks her first question. “Lies Beneath, a novel about murderous mermaids, is a very dark novel. Did you worry about its reception given the age of your audience?” “LIES BENEATH is a YA novel for ages 12 and up. It is creepy from a human standpoint (we aren’t at the top of the “food” chain), but I didn’t worry about it being too dark for teens because I never thought I was writing a dark story, or even a so-called ‘paranormal romance.’ (Yes, I know. Very naive.),” Brown starts. “See, I knew it wasn’t a middle grade novel! Ha!” I proclaim. “You want a cookie?” Kat asks coolly. She’s trying to ruin my small victory after being so adamant in our Review War that Lies Beneath wasn’t Young Adult. I blow her a raspberry for good measure. Suck it, Kennedy! Brown giggles and continues, “What I set out to do was write an Evolution Story (in a very Darwinian sense). Calder and his sisters are animals, or at the very least animalistic. They stalk their prey just like the lion in National Geographic. That’s why I didn’t see their behavior as dark or evil. I saw that as natural animal behavior. My goal, then, was to have Calder start the evolutionary process, going from an animal to a man, and eventually head toward what, in my opinion, are the two most profound capabilities of the human spirit: the ability to forgive and the ability to be self sacrificing. The love story is a symptom of his becoming more human. He doesn’t quite get there, but he’s trying really hard.” Kat nods thoughtfully. I notice that her notepad has been abandoned on the dock and I sigh internally. Of course. I begin taking notes like the dutiful blogger I am. “What’s been really interesting to watch are readers’ reactions to that. Once a story is public, it’s not the author’s story anymore. Each reader reacts to it according to his/her own personal experiences, preferences, prejudices, etc and they make their own interpretation. As it should be! It’s fascinating!” she finishes. “Well some interpretations are just wrong,” Kat says giving me a sly look. I open my mouth to object, but she asks her next question before I can give a witty response. “Calder White is a merman having an existential dilemma when he meets a human, Lily. Did you struggle to make him a sympathetic character? Did you worry the audience wouldn’t get him?” “I always felt sorry for Calder. He’s a momma’s boy without a momma,” she begins wistfully. “That aspect of him was always in my head, but not necessarily on the page, so I put a lot of energy into the revisions to show how desperate he is for a real family. He’s had to make do, even make up family members, during his developmental years. I hope readers will understand how lonely he is, and feel some sympathy for him, even when he’s being ‘bad.'” “Calder definitely came across as lonely. Did you find it challenging to writing in a male point-of-view?” I ask. “At first, yes!” she exclaims. “When I read a draft of Chapter One to my critique group, they all thought Calder was a girl. He sounded like me! So I experimented with writing unlike me. Shortening up sentences. Dealing with facts, figures. Noticing the way girls’ bodies looked, rather than guys’. That was new for me.” I glance over at Kennedy who’s be disturbingly quiet and notice she’s removing her socks and shoes.
“What are you doing?” I ask. “Just putting me feet in for a bit. Duh,” she replies. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?” I say glancing nervously at the water. “Something could grab you.” She howls with laughter and eases her feet below the surface. “Don’t tell me you’re scared, Sinclair?” I scowl at her and say, “Not as scared as you were when I expertly landed Rossi’s spaceship.” Checkmate.
(Kat would like to interrupt this Interview with a special broadcast: No you fucking did not land that spaceship, woman! You crashed it! You can’t hide the truth! Rossi will back me up on this. Okay, that’s all. Back to the interview.)
Kat ignores me, turns back to Brown who’s been chuckling at our little exchange, and continues the interview. “Lily is a refreshingly pragmatic, bold character. Did you enjoy writing her? What was your biggest struggle in her characterization?” “The biggest struggle with Lily was that I was in Calder’s first person point of view. I couldn’t tell the reader what was going on inside Lily’s head unless she said it out loud, and she kept a lot in. That being said, I did enjoy writing her. I liked it when she slapped Calder. He needed someone like her to shake him up. The sequel, DEEP BETRAYAL, is told from Lily’s pov. It’s a huge change of voice.” Brown says. That last part surprises me. “Lily’s pov? I’d actually really be interested in checking that out.” Brown beams at me and I smile back. Her smiles are contagious and I feel my mood brightening every minute in her presence. We are in the middle of a kindred spirit moment when I hear Kat moving around on the other side of Brown. We look over at her and my jaw hits the dock. Kat’s lounging on the dock in a fire-engine red, halter-top bikini looking like she’s straight out of a spread in Victoria’s Secret magazine. Hot swim suit edition. Somehow she’s even managed to make herself glisten as the sun’s rays lick at her skin. “What the hell, woman?!” I exclaim hugging myself self-consciously. I didn’t even think to bring my suit and sitting near Kat and her stunning body suddenly has me feeling completely overdressed in my distressed jeans and graphic tee. She stands, does a half turn and says innocently, “Oh, this old thing?” Brown and I are stunned into silence as she pulls down the pony tail she usually keeps her dark locks in, and fluffs her hair. Somewhere over the rainbow, Helen of Troy is giving her the finger. She turns back to us smirking and tells me, “Oh Stephanie, Your lady-wood is showing.” And at that classy remark, Brown explodes with laughter and says, “You guys are hysterical!” Kat resumes her seated, model-esque position on the dock and I attempt to bring the conversation back to business by asking my next question. “What inspiration did you draw on for Lies Beneath?” “The biggest inspiration was Lake Superior itself,” she says gesturing towards the lake. “I grew up sailing on that lake, and it is the most amazing, magical place for me. There’s a map at the front of the book and most everything on it is a real place that you can visit, with the exception of Lily’s house and the cliff (which is actually located on Madeline Island).” I glance uneasily at Kat and notice she’s now winking at something in the distance. Before I can give much thought to it, Kat remembers what we’re actually here for and asks, “Did you do a lot of research to make the mermaids seem more realistic to your audience?” “Hmmm. Not really,” Brown says shaking her head. “I got the mermaids’ silver neck bands from a Native American reference. The rest I just imagined up.” Kat then decides to stretch out on her back and starts drawing circles on her washboard abs with her index finger. At this point I’m half expecting her to start singing… and… there she goes… “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard…la la la la laaaa… warm it up…” Kat purrs. Note to self: This is what happens to your ego when a famous GoodReads reviewer writes a poem about your lady lumps. I chuckle nervously and say, “Ha! Don’t mind her. Sometimes this happens when she hasn’t had her drink, er… medication. So anyway… Poetry is woven into the story via Lily’s love for it. Is this something you and Lily have in common? Do you find you share any other traits/similarities with your characters?” Brown doesn’t look convinced, but appears to be entertained by Kat’s antics nonetheless. “Lily and I share a love for Victorian poets and, like her, I wrote a lot of (terrible) poetry when I was younger. You get to see one of Lily’s own poems in LIES BENEATH, and even more in DEEP BETRAYAL. Suffice it to say, it’s not going to win her any awards but she means every word,” she answers. Suddenly, everyone’s attention is diverted to rippling in the lake. The culprit: Calder White. Hotness. Kat sits up and they begin staring each other down, resembling animals in the wild. It’s like a scene straight from the National Geographic channel. “I’ll… be right back ladies. If you’ll excuse me,” she says quickly and drops into the lake gracefully. “What?! W-wait!” I stammer reaching out for her in vain. Brown puts a hand on my shoulder and gently eases me back down. I turn to her and she pats my back reassuringly. I suppose if she isn’t worried, then it’ll be okay. Maybe. As Kat swims over to meet Calder, Brown looks at me expectantly so I continue. “There are a few different themes running through Lies Beneath. One that stood out to me was the family bond shown through Calder and his sisters and Lily and her family. Were there any messages you hoped readers would take away from the novel while reading?” “Yes, absolutely! As I explored Calder’s evolution, I was impressed by how human beings don’t have a monopoly on family loyalty. Loons, for example, these beautiful birds you see on Lake Superior, partner up for life and mourn the loss of their mate,” she says pointing to a bird as it flies by. “We all need family (however it is defined), and without it, we are adrift and searching.” “Wow, that’s so true. I can really rela–” I begin. “MARCO!” Kat yells interrupting my train of thought. Brown and I look up towards Kat. “Polo,” Calder says easily dodging her advances. “Oh, c’mon Calder. This isn’t fair! I don’t exactly have a fluke!” she complains, though not seriously by that sound of those giggles. Brown watches with amusement and I roll my eyes at Kat. Unbelievable. She’s playing Marco Polo with a hot merman. Some of us just have all the fun. Only slightly sulking, I proceed, “We can tell Lily and Calder are not quite out of the water yet (pun totally intended!). Did you always plan for their story to be a series?” Brown turns back towards me and replies, “Yes. When it sold, Random House wanted a trilogy, but I didn’t have a synopsis for Book 3 yet, so it sold in a two book deal, with the hope that there would be a third. DEEP BETRAYAL comes out in Spring 2013. I’m writing Book 3 right now, and it will give a better look into the mermaid family’s back story.” “Very cool!” I say. “Weeeeeeeee…!” Kat screams. You’ve got to be kidding me, I think. Calder’s now giving Kat a piggyback ride back and forth. Brown claps her hands and cheers them on. I’m quickly reverting back to “Johnny Rain-cloud” mode so I ask Kat’s last question considering she’s a little preoccupied at the moment. “And finally, what was you favorite scene while writing Lies Beneath?” “Can I have two?” she asks. “Faster, Calder!” Kat says between giggles. “Sure,” I say nodding trying to ignore all the fun happening on the lake. “I loved writing the scene toward the beginning where Calder and his sisters are at the coffee shop, sitting around a table, discussing their plan to get Hancock. And I loved writing Calder’s last conversation with his sister, Maris. He’s sunk as low as he can go, and that was too much fun,” she says excitedly. Finally, Calder, noticing the end of our interview, brings Kat back to the dock. She climbs up onto the dock, turns back to him and says, “I had a really awesome time. If you ever get out to Australian waters, look me–” “Alright, that’s enough, hot cross buns,” I say pulling her up and stuffing her abandoned clothes in her arms. She looks at me sheepishly, blows a kiss to Calder and mouths, “Call me.” After Brown and I exchange thank you’s and goodbyes, she hugs Kat and says, “Thanks, Kat! If you want to do any kind of giveaway along with the interview, I’ve got swag.” Kat winks. “Oh, I bet you have, you saucy minx.” As they begin walking to the parking lot, chatting animatedly about swag prizes, Calder gestures me towards him. I bend down and say, “If you tell me I look delicious, we’re gonna have ourselves ‘a situation.‘” He doubles over with laughter. I frown. What’s he implying anyway? He turns serious and tells me, “I sense darkness in your soul.” “What? What darkness? What you are you-” I look up and see Kat and Anne laughing there heads off at me. “Let me guess, Kat asked you to say that?” Calder nods. Irritated, I stalk off towards my vehicle and yell back, “I get it already! Master Yoda’s working with me!”
We want to give a huge thank you to Anne Greenwood Brown for the interview!
Don’t forget to check out Lies Beneath when it hits shelves this summer!
Anne Greenwood Brown is graciously giving away the following swag package: 1. Bayfield T-Shirt 2. Signed Bookmark 3. Patchouli-scented soap (for when you want to be mistaken for a mermaid) 4. A bottle of “Mermaid Tears” nail polish
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